Photographer Terje Sørgjerd has put together a magnificent time-lapse video, filmed on the slopes of Mount Teide in the Canary Islands. Be sure to view this full-screen:
At about 30 seconds in, a sandstorm from the Sahara Desert hits:
Interestingly enough my camera was set for a 5 hour sequence of the milky way during this time and I was sure my whole scene was ruined. To my surprise, my camera had managed to capture the sandstorm which was backlit by Grand Canary Island making it look like golden clouds. The Milky Way was shining through the clouds, making the stars sparkle in an interesting way. So if you ever wondered how the Milky Way would look through a Sahara sandstorm, look at 00:32.
And beyond the dust from the storm lies the dust of the Milky Way itself. Phil Plait explains:
As the galaxy shows itself, look at the dark lane bisecting it. Feathery and ethereal, those dark fingers and tendrils are actually vast complexes of dust, long chains of carbon-based molecules floating in between the stars. Created when stars are born, age, and die, this dust litters the plane of the galaxy. Seen edge-on, it absorbs and blocks the light from stars behind it, creating the dark fog cutting across the breadth of our spiral galaxy.
Another moment of astonishing beauty: the clouds rolling and undulating like ocean waves, at 45 seconds in.
Roger Ebert writes of art as his consolation in the face of the universe, and Sørgjerd’s video (with Ludovico Einaudi’s exquisite music) is certainly art; but on another level, I like to think that the universe itself is its own consolation.
The thought will blow your mind if you let it. Here we are, the result of what hydrogen atoms can do given nearly fourteen billion years, peering upward through the veil of terrestrial sandstorms governed by the same titanic forces and universal physical laws that long ago ignited the stars: the unimaginable crucibles that brought forth the elements, the planets, life, awareness, us. And we turn our eyes to everything we have kinship with: to the high trees and flower-strewn fields, the fog-shrouded mountains and the golden light of desert storms — and eventually to the stars themselves wheeling overhead, their light crossing inconceivable distances to reach our eyes and remind us of the source of who we are. The idea that we are not merely in the universe, but of it — this is connection in the profoundest sense. This is what I think of when I think of spirituality.
Children of the stars, we turn our gaze skyward to consider our ancient origins — “starstuff pondering the stars,” as Carl Sagan wrote — and we make an offering of our awareness, our curiosity, our astonishment, our music and our art: if not in prayer, then in unbounded wonder and joy.